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Monday, 29 June 2015

Out of O'Casey's Shadow

Typewriters feature in many stage plays; but there are few in which the typewriter is as prominent as it is in Seán O'Casey's The Shadow of a Gunman, which is back at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
The Shadow of a Gunman was O'Casey's first accepted play and was first staged at the Abbey in 1923. Each act is set in a room in a poor, busy tenement slum in "Hilljoy Square" in Dublin, in May 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, and centres on the mistaken identity of a poet thought to be an Irish Republican Army assassin. It is the first of O'Casey's "Dublin Trilogy" - the other two being Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926).
The Shadow of a Gunman deals with the impact of revolutionary politics on Dublin's slums and their inhabitants, and is understood to be set in Mountjoy Square, where O'Casey lived during the 1916 Easter Rising. 
A range of typewriters have been used in the very many productions of The Shadow of a Gunman during the past 92 years, not all of them fitting within the May 1920 setting for the play. In this 1953 Abbey show, however, it appears an Underwood 3 portable was employed:
At the other end of the scale of appropriateness is this little Silver-Seiko:
One of the more notable productions came in a 1992 BBC2 Performance series and starred Kenneth Branagh using an L.C.Smith standard:

The full 73-minute production can be watched here (the typing scene is at the beginning):

Some other productions:
Dublin-born  O'Casey (1880-1964) was a committed socialist and the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes. He died in Torquay, Devon, on September 18, 1964, aged 84.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not my favourite typewriter, but I do like that Silver-Seiko pic the best. Great post. :)writelephant